Yesterday was my 20 year high school reunion. It was amazing. Yes it was at a beautifully-decorated winery. We had great wine and an amazing spread of food. We had a DJ spinning tunes from the ’90s and the Pacquiao fight was projected onto the venue’s dome. But it was phenomenal because more than a whopping 50% of our class attended. Friends flew in from Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and NYC. I loved seeing everyone and catching up.
I went to St. Joseph Notre Dame, a small, private Catholic high school in the Bay Area. There were approximately 100 people in my graduating class. If I had to re-live any of my educational years (high school, college, or grad school), hands-down, I would pick high school. From 1989-1993, I spent every day with the most amazing classmates and teachers.
When I hear how much people in general disliked their high school experience, I wonder what was the dynamic at my particular high school that created an environment where everyone got along for the most part and had such fond memories. I attribute it to the following:
a) A small intimate environment. Because there were only 100 people per class, you weren’t going to get lost in the crowd. The teachers and administration kept the school in disciplined check.
b) Diversity. This stems from the geographical nature of the school and its proximity to Oakland. Whereas diversity, I believe, is atypical for most private schools, I seriously went to the United Nations of high schools. When you go to class with people coming from so many different cultural backgrounds, you just learn to get along and coexist.
c) Catholicism. Being Catholic wasn’t a requirement, but deliberately choosing to send your child to a school founded on Catholic principles says something about what our parents valued. Our school wasn’t cheap and especially for most of our middle-class parents, it was a major sacrifice to pay four years of tuition for all of their children. My parents never went out to eat. They packed their lunch every day. Money was tight. And I think a lot of us genuinely understood how much of the family budget went into covering the tuition.
So last night while we were celebrating, I said a cheers to my parents. Because of them, I had the most amazing high school experience and at every reunion, I get to rekindle those memories.
Some of these pictures I can’t take credit for. Hopefully the photographers don’t mind! #sjnd1993
The first pic is of our classmate Sal Martinez who died due to a random drive-by shooting in Oakland.